Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The reality of Brexit strikes home

by Frank Schnittger Fri Sep 18th, 2020 at 12:07:00 AM EST

Newton Emerson, a unionist commentator, has an article up in the Irish Times echoing Boris Johnson's complaint that the EU is threatening to blockade N. Ireland's food supplies. This is part of Johnson's justification for breaking international law even though discussions at the joint implementation body on the N. Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement had been, by all accounts, making good progress in resolving outstanding issues.

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UK to break international law

by Frank Schnittger Tue Sep 8th, 2020 at 03:10:05 PM EST

The UK is to unveil internal market legislation tomorrow (9/9/20) which will break international law albeit in what they describe as a limited way. Specifically it will abrogate sections of the Withdrawal Agreement which require the UK to implement customs controls at the N. Ireland Great Britain sea border thus providing back-door access to the Single Market for British goods - whatever any trade agreement might say.

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Mairead McGuinness to be next Commissioner

by Frank Schnittger Fri Sep 4th, 2020 at 03:48:42 PM EST

Andrew McDowell and Mairead McGuinness candidates for European Commission role

The Cabinet has proposed Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell as candidates to replace Phil Hogan at the European Commission.


Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will not be one of the Government's nominees for the role of European Commissioner.

Andrew McDowell is a former Fine Gael advisor and until recently vice-president of the European Investment Bank .


Andrew McDowell is a former backroom Fine Gael Economic advisor and a political non-entity. No one seriously believes he will get the job. But Commission President Ursula Van Der Leyen had made it clear she wanted "both a women and a man, not a man and a women nominees," in the words of Leo Varadkar. Basically no man need apply, and in the end no one of substance did. Why put your present job at risk by applying for another, when you know you won't get the job?

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Who will replace Commissioner Hogan?

by Frank Schnittger Sun Aug 30th, 2020 at 09:36:51 PM EST

Commission President, Ursula Van Der Leyen has asked the Irish government to submit both male and female candidates to replace Phil Hogan as European Commissioner while EU sources are stating that any replacement is unlikely to retain the important Trade portfolio.

This creates a number of problems for the Irish Government. Firstly, it could be argued that asking the government to submit a shortlist from which she will make the final selection is an impertinence, as it is for the Irish government, and the Irish government alone, to determine who the next Commissioner from Ireland should be (subject to EU Council and Parliament approval).

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Trump's re-election prospects

by Frank Schnittger Mon Aug 17th, 2020 at 12:35:54 PM EST

Irish Times Columnist Jennifer O'Connell has an article up basically saying that Trump, like all bullies, is afraid of all those who are not afraid of him, and seeks to patronise strong women because he is afraid of them. He is afraid of Kamala Harris because he knows she can beat him. This has provoked two letters to the editor in response from Jim O'Sullivan and myself:

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The political effects of electoral voting systems

by Frank Schnittger Thu Aug 13th, 2020 at 05:18:05 PM EST

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The Set Up?

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 24th, 2020 at 09:46:56 AM EST

In Ireland we are used to insulting, malevolent, and utterly ignorant commentaries on our affairs in the British tabloids in particular, but also in "respectable" broadsheets like the Telegraph, and supposedly sophisticated magazines like the Spectator.

"Lttle Leo" was portrayed as the EU's Lapdog doing their bidding at the behest of Macron or whoever was the EU bully-du-jour. He was running scared of Sinn Féin and adopting their policies. He was regularly told to shut up and stop interfering as Great Britain went about its Great Brexit business.

In the past week two articles in the British media have offered a startlingly different perspective. The Editorial in the Guardian "an enviable beauty is born", was the less surprising. The Guardian is often more sympathetic to Irish (and Remainer) views, and even features Irish Times columnist, Fintan O'Toole, on occasion to offer an Irish perspective.

But if anything, it was the Economist which was the more gushing this week:

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Poor Spectator Sports

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jul 23rd, 2020 at 08:27:55 AM EST

For a prestigious UK magazine, the Spectator does print some rubbishy articles, easily debunked. Unfortunately this one by Matthew Lynn, Europe's coronavirus rescue fund is dead on arrival," has now disappeared behind a paywall on the Spectator's main site but is still available in their US Edition (linked to above).

This is my riposte published in the Irish Times (second letter down). It begins by praising an Irish Times article, as this is the best way to get a letter published!

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The new demographics

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jul 18th, 2020 at 12:46:55 PM EST

Text below, in case the above image doesn't render properly...

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Winning Diplomacy

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 10th, 2020 at 09:00:11 AM EST


Ireland has scored a few significant diplomatic victories in recent times in getting the EU, and ultimately Boris Johnson, to accept its position on the N. Ireland border and winning a seat on the UN Security Council against strong opposition from Canada.

Paschal Donohoe's election as President of the Eurogroup of Eurozone finance ministers yesterday may not seem like much of a coup to casual observers, but it was gained against strong opposition from Spain's Finance Minster Nadia Calvino, who had been favoured by France, Germany and some Mediterranean countries as an economist with experience working within the EU institutions who would make the argument for a generous response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Covid-19 and foreign holidays

by Frank Schnittger Wed Jul 8th, 2020 at 07:30:58 AM EST

The Irish Times has published an edited version of my letter on Covid-19 and travelling on foreign holidays. The context of the letter is an increasingly polarised debate on-line about the merits of doing so. For the past couple of weeks Ireland, north and south, has been on the cusp of eliminating the virus completely, with only a handful of deaths and between 4 and 24 new cases per day. Some days have seen no deaths at all, and an increasing proportion of new cases have been related to foreign travel.

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Too pessimistic? (Edited)

by Frank Schnittger Fri Jul 3rd, 2020 at 12:55:45 PM EST


Some things will never be the same again and to imagine it will soon be 'business as usual' may well be wishful thinking. Photo: Aine McMahon/PA Wire

The Irish Independent (and Irish Examiner) have published my letter on the possible end of a golden age for European politics. Apparently some browsers aren't rendering the screen grab of the letter properly, so I reproduce below the fold the image, text and link.

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Green centre right government formed

by Frank Schnittger Sat Jun 27th, 2020 at 02:39:09 PM EST

One of the elemental proprieties of democracy has been enacted  in Ireland today with the handing over of the office of Taoiseach from Leo Varadker, leader of Fine Gael, to Michael Martin, Leader of Fine Fail. The two civil war parties of Ireland are coalescing for the first time in tandem with the Greens.

Bitter personal rivalries and some policy differences have been set aside after the three parties agreed to coalesce on the basis of a 129 page programme for government endorsed by large majorities of their party memberships in the case of Fianna Fail, and the Greens, and an electoral college within Fine Gael.

The formation of the Government brings to an end an unprecedented 15 week hiatus since the General Election last February when no government could be formed for lack of an agreement between parties representing a majority in the Dail. Failure to agree would, most probably, have resulted in a second general election to resolve the impasse.

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New Government to be formed in Ireland?

by Frank Schnittger Tue Jun 16th, 2020 at 11:44:34 AM EST


Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photograph: Caroline Quinn/Damien Eagers/Leon Farrell/PA Wire


The Fianna Fail (FF), Fine Gael (FG) and Green parties have agreed a 50,000 word, 126 page programme for government which will now be put to the party memberships of FF and the Greens and an electoral college within FG for final approval. Approval is expected in FF and FG, but the two thirds majority of members required by the Green party constitution may prove a more difficult hurdle. Hence the ? in the title.

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It's not easy being Green

by Frank Schnittger Sun Jun 7th, 2020 at 11:26:49 PM EST

Both the Irish Times: Leadership and the Green Party, and the Independent have published my letter to the editor today:

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Countering Karlsruhe

by Frank Schnittger Thu May 28th, 2020 at 11:43:51 AM EST

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The Primacy of EU law

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 25th, 2020 at 03:43:08 PM EST

I am upbraided by an email correspondent for my article on Karlsruhe and German exceptionalism as follows:

Dear Mr. Schnittger,

as long time reader of the I usually agree with most of you opinions. However, your comment on the German decision of the Bundesverfassungsgericht misses by far the point in a few instances.

The major issue of the Judge Huber was  that in Germany (and according to Huber also other countries) the Basic Law/constitution sets the highest bar, it cannot be changed by a European court. There was and is a conflict that has to be solved.

"If the German court can be allowed to superimpose its own judgement on an EU policy it doesn't like, what's to prevent all other member states doing the same?" only points to the fact, that you do not understand the issue. To complain that a German judge points to this conflict is therefore weak, the EU is not one country, it is a union of sovereign states, that causes problems. Ignoring the problems solves nothing.

"Is the Merkel/Macron proposal for the EU to borrow and spend €500 Billion a direct response to the Karlsruhe ruling?"

Again a miss by a wide margin. There was never a discussion whether there is support for the countries hit hardest by the corona visrus epidemic, only the legal framework was. The judge Huber did NOT exclude some means, he only requested a better reasoning, this should be easy for the EU. And a larger EU budget as suggested for the 500 billion EUR is of course perfectly within the legal framework given by judge Huber.

"Far from being slow to condemn Karlsruhe, Ireland should be equanimous about the prospect of Germany leaving the Eurozone, if that is what it really wants to do, as the logic of the Judges ruling seems to suggest."

Nonsensical conclusion.

Best regards in the hope to read high quality article in future again.

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Karlsruhe and German exceptionalism

by Frank Schnittger Wed May 20th, 2020 at 02:49:31 AM EST


Michael McDowell
, prominent barrister, senator, Irish Times columnist, and former Tanaiste (deputy prime minister), Leader of the (now defunct) Progressive Democratic party, Attorney General, Minister for Justice, and leading advocate for the neo-liberal policies which devastated the Irish economy in 2008-2011, has written a column in the Irish Times basically supporting the Karlsruhe judgement.

This is hot on the heals of Fintan O'Toole taking McDowell to task for his new role of deficit-scold-in-chief, having been entirely profligate while a Minister of the disastrous 2002-2007 Fianna Fail Progressive Democrat government. As I noted in the comments to that article:

"Deficit Scolds" is the term of art to describe those far right economists (like Rogoff) who criticise all spending when the Democrats are in power and give free licence to Republicans to run up far bigger deficits whenever they are in power - usually on tax cuts for the rich. As Dick Cheny said: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter" when it comes to rewarding the rich, even if this is the most economically inefficient form of "spending" any state can opt for. Michael McDowell fits the description admirably.

But it is his view on Karlsruhe that concern me here. I have responded, in the comments, as follows:

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Test Test Test

by Frank Schnittger Fri May 15th, 2020 at 12:14:18 PM EST

The data above (sorted by total deaths per country) is taken from Worldometer with the exception of two calculated column (in red) of confirmed case mortality rates (deaths/confirmed cases) and % positive tests (confirmed cases/tests) which I have added to illustrate the degree of testing which is happening in each country. Obviously the more widespread and intensive the testing regime, the lower the % positive rate you are going to get. Conversely, countries which only test the most obvious cases, usually on admission to hospital, will return a much higher % positive rate.

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The Joys of Spring

by Frank Schnittger Mon May 4th, 2020 at 02:04:15 PM EST

One of the reasons the lock down in Ireland has garnered less opposition than might be expected is that we are currently enjoying glorious May sunshine having had a much sunnier than average April. Temperatures of 10-15 degrees with an absolute max of 20 degrees recently may not seem like much to our European neighbours, but hey, this is Ireland, and we will take this kind of weather any day.

As I write my 6 month old grand daughter is enjoying her first outdoor bath in warmed water under a clear blue sky and a light breeze in blissful 12 degrees sunshine. Many Irish people regard 20 degrees as hot, and 25 degrees an almost unbearable heatwave. There is a reason our forebears migrated northwards out of Africa, but I have always wondered why the war loving Vikings focused on polar climes. Surely population and military pressures from the south couldn't have been that bad?

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